12.102 Problem Set #6

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12.102 Problem Set #6:
Effects on climate change: divinity, humanity or bovinity?
The purpose of this problem set is to introduce you to scientific literature relevant to class
discussions of greenhouse gases and climate change. You will examine some of the current
literature regarding the carbon cycle, explore the extent of our knowledge of how CO2 moves
through the biosphere, and evaluate the wisdom of some proposed methods of mitigating the
impact of anthropogenic carbon inputs. It is beneficial to everyone if your answers are pithy.
Each numbered question is worth 10 points.
PART I: Sulfogenic Aerosols
Climate & Anthropogenic Aerosols (Charlson et al., 1992)
1) What affects do SO2 emissions have on the environment? List your answers.
2) Charlson et al present some simple equations that approximate the climate forcing
resulting from anthropogenic sulfur emissions. Describe, in qualitative terms, the
significance of equation 3 (p. 426).
PART II: The Carbon Cycle
Terrestrial CO2 uptake (Fan et al., 1998; Betts, 2000; Fearnside, 2001)
3) Summarize the estimates of fossil emissions and terrestrial uptake for the three regions
discussed in the Fan et al., 1998 paper.
4) Discuss the short and long-term potential of forests as CO2 sinks. According to
Betts, does planting trees solve the anthropogenic CO2 dilemma?
5) Explain in some detail why the proposed North American carbon sink is so politically
controversial.
Carbon Sequestration (Friedmann, 2003)
6) List and describe four different ways to store CO2. What are some difficulties associated
with each of these methods, and what aspects need to be most studied?
PART III: Past Climate Change
Past climate changes provide a basis for assessing the possible climatic effects of greenhouse
gases in the earth's atmosphere. In this section you will examine and evaluate a proposed
record of climate over the past 100,00 years.
Ice Core from Greenland (Thompson et al., 2002)
7) In two or three sentences describe the general approach used in this paper.
8) How do the authors relate the δ18O record to time? What assumptions, both explicit and
implicit, lie behind their method?
9) If ice layers had undergone significant mixing during normal ice flow within the glacier,
what type of δ18O record would you expect?
10) Discuss the relevance of these findings to predictions of global warming due to
anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
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